408-BeeA multi-million pound highways improvement scheme is set to be amended to try to protect the wild flower and bee population on the Isle of Wight.

The Isle of Wight Council is due to meet representatives of contractor Island Roads to discuss new ways of cutting rural roadside verges in an attempt to preserve the wild flowers and vegetation on which bees and other wildlife flourish.

Island Roads, which undertakes the Island’s 25 year Highways PFI project, is currently contracted to cut back all the grass and vegetation from many rural verges. Now other options are to be explored including leaving swathes of roadside vegetation free for bees – and other wildlife – as long as it is safe to do so in terms of maintaining highway visibility.

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The move follows representations from local councillors concerned that the previous verge trimming regime may have harmed the Island’s bee population including the rare Potter Flower bee.

Next week councillors including Luisa Hillard, cabinet member for sustainability, and Bob Seely who has highlighted the need to protect the Island’s bee population will meet with council officers and Island Roads to discuss options. Councillors will also suggest a programme under which wild flower seed could be sown on verges across the Island.

Councillor Jon Gilbey, Isle of Wight Council cabinet member responsible for the Highways PFI, said:

“The aim of the meeting is to agree on a way of maintaining our verges that means they are safe for road users but with as little impact as possible on the bee population. “Our relationship with Island Roads is a positive and a pragmatic one and I am confident we can agree a way forward. “This will be a huge step both from an environmental and aesthetic point of view. It also demonstrates the council’s commitment to sustainability and our determination to work positively with Island Roads to enhance the environment of the Island on which we live.”

Paul Herbert, service director at Island Roads, added:

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“We are committed to making the Highways PFI as environmentally friendly as possible and are delighted to discuss a way forward that would help protect the ecology of roadside verges. We look forward to our forthcoming discussions with council members and officers.”

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